I reserved this DVD because of my interest in legal stories. Little did I know what a can of worms it would open. I almost returned it without a viewing! Billy Mitchell is debatably responsible for the branch of service called the Air Force. My dad was in the Army-Air Force from 1942-1946 although his Separation Records show Army. He was trained as an airplane mechanic and inspected, repaired, and overhauled engines. He was sent to the Casey Jones Aeronautical School. He was born in NJ but lived most of his life in NY. Gary Cooper, besides being in TCMoBM was also in the movie, High Noon, a movie my dad loved, and, I suspect loved Cooper too because he used to imitate him as I recall. There was a similarity between the two. I never heard my dad talk about Billy Mitchell or the movie. Because of this movie, I did a lot of research on the internet today. I learned that my dad won a medal for marksmanship. I had no idea because he never talked about his experience in the service. I also saw the home where he grew up and where he went to school. I can't add to what others have written here except that I really enjoyed the movie and hadn't expected to. I wish I could talk to my dad because now I have so many questions. He passed away 10 years ago.
Despite an Oscar nomination for best screenplay, this is one of Otto Preminger’s less engaging films. Overly sentimental, it presents Mitchell as an “aw shucks” gentleman with a vision when the real character was in fact a charismatic firecracker—even Billy’s widow expressed her disappointment upon watching it. The cinemascope presentation is captivating enough as it swings from sinking battleships to courtroom tension but aside from a few worthy performances—namely Elizabeth Montgomery (in her screen debut) as a grieving widow, Rod Steiger as a vicious prosecutor, and Ralph Bellamy as his counterpoint for the defense—everyone else pretty much reads their lines especially Cooper who wavers between bland and distracted. One scene does stand out however when, during the trial, an overly zealous Steiger scoffs at Mitchell’s eerie prediction of an air attack on Pearl Harbor.
This is a 1955 court-marshall docudrama directed by Otto Preminger, based on the notorious court-martial of Colonel Billy Mitchell, who is considered the founder of the U.S. Air Force.
Brigadier General William Mitchell tries to prove the worth of the Air Service as an independent service by sinking a battleship under restrictive conditions agreed to by Army and Navy.
He disobeys their orders to limit the attack to bombs under 1,000 pounds and instead loads 2,000 pounders.
With these, he proves his aircraft can sink the ex-German World War I battleship Ostfriesland, previously considered unsinkable.
But his superiors are outraged.
Later, Mitchell calls a press conference in which he makes harsh criticisms of the Army.
He is then court-martialed.
Mitchell has a clear vision, but his superiors don't understand it.
Finally Mitchell testifies and is cross-examined by a prosecutor specially brought in for the job who stresses his having disobeyed his superior officers and who ridicules his attempts at foresight, even though he accurately foresees the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.
Sometimes obedience is a bad thing even in the military.
It is a quite thought-provoking drama.
The first three quarters of this film seemed a little light to me. Then came the appearance of Rod Steiger playing the role of a ruthless prosecutor. This film was released after Steiger made his Oscar nominated role as the brother of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, one of the greatest American films. I thought that Steiger may have been the best actor in this film on Mitchell’s life, although his part was rather short. The story of Mitchell, whom some consider to be the father of the Air Force, was totally unknown to me prior to seeing this film.
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